Remember the Golden Guides?
The Golden Guides, which were originally titled Golden Nature Guides, were widely available in the 1950s. They were primarily intended for children who were inclined toward science. Written by experts and profusely illustrated, the series covered subjects such Birds (1949), Flowers (1950), Fishes (1955) and Mammals (1955), and then expanded to a wider range of subjects, including Hallucinogenic Plants (1976).
For those interested in plants, the best reason to read the Golden Guide to Hallucinogenic plants is the text written by Richard Evans Schultes. Dr. Schultes was a Harvard-educated PhD botanist and is considered by many to be the father of modern ethnobotany. In the late 1940s, while collecting species of rubber trees for the US Department of Agriculture, he spent most of his time in the Amazon with indigenous Indian tribes from whom he learned and experimented with the medicinal properties of plants. He is also known for his collaborations with chemists and as an inspirational professor of biology at Harvard University. Among the many books to his credit is The Plants of the Gods: Their Sacred, Healing, and Hallucinogenic Powers (1979), which he co-authored with chemist Albert Hofmann, the discoverer of LSD.
In other words, Dr. Schultes knew what he was talking about. True to its title, the Golden Guide to Hallucinogenic Plants contains a wealth of background information, including the use of hallucinogenic plants in primitive society as well as in the “modern world.” And while the text may not be sufficiently scientific for expert botanists, Dr. Schultes makes good use of his vast expertise and experience to provide excellent explanations of where hallucinogens fit into the plant kingdom along with their Latin names, chemical composition, effects, and how they are taken.
From old-world hallucinogens to new-world hallucinogens to pseudo-hallucinogens, he covers the ethnobotany, history, and folklore of hallucinogens in considerable detail. His approach is always objective and scientific, made all the more compelling by the excellent illustrations of Elmer Smith.